Latin America continues to be one of the regions in the world most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to recent data from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), one of the main reasons is the lack of access to and distribution of vaccines.
Mexico was the first country in Latin America to launch a COVID-19 vaccination program, vital to begin the country's recovery, and Martha Delgado has played an important role in the fight for access to vaccines and supplies.
Delgado, undersecretary for multilateral affairs and human rights at Mexico's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, recently spoke with Global Citizen about how her daily work focuses on accelerating the recovery plan for her country.
Global Citizen: In the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, what is Mexico doing to achieve equitable access to vaccines?
Delgado: Mexico has been a very active and vocal country in promoting equitable access to materials, supplies, and especially vaccines against COVID-19. Last year, in 2020, before the United Nations General Assembly we presented the Resolution 74/274, which was supported by almost 170 countries in the world, to promote equitable access to all these solutions to combat this pandemic.
Also, Mexico is the first country in Latin America to participate in the Directing Council of CEPI, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and we are also participating in the Council of ACT-A, which is the mechanism against COVID-19 established at the multilateral level by the World Health Organization.
The president, as well as Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, have also been very vocal about the representation that the country, Mexico, has as Pro Tempore Presidency of CELAC [Community of Latin American and Caribbean States], so that in the Latin American and Caribbean region we can have more expeditious access to the vaccines and we can count on support, and so that the distribution of vaccines can be equitable in the region.
Mexico will continue to promote this, and we call for access to vaccines in the world to be considered as a global public good and to consider all the necessary strategies so that their distribution can also include the facilitation of technology transfer for packaging and vaccine production on the five continents.
Does Mexico consider that a temporary lifting of intellectual property rights on vaccines, as well as a delocalization in the region of vaccine production, will positively contribute to equitable access by all countries?
Mexico considers that the temporary lifting of property rights, or the current patents, of vaccines against SARS-COV-2 could and will contribute to more expeditious and quicker access around the world ... which should be considered as a global public good.
In this sense, it is important to note that this lifting may only last for as long as the SARS-COV-2 is considered a pandemic. We know that intellectual property rights must be respected; but at this time [it is also] most important ... so that the transfer of technology for packaging and production of vaccines in various countries around the world can become a reality, and thus make vaccination much faster.
What are Mexico's expectations for the Global Health Summit organized by Italy as the G20 presidency, as well as for the next session of the World Health Assembly in Geneva?
Both the G20 World Health Summit and the World Health Organization's World Health Assembly are very important spaces for multilateral global debate, where Mexico will reaffirm its position for equitable access to vaccines, but also for collaboration between countries in the prevention and preparation of our capacities to combat epidemics.
It is clear, after a year of the SARS-COV-2 pandemic, that the most vulnerable countries of the world have been most affected and that these types of pandemics are of course affecting the most marginalized populations. The countries that have less access to resources to face these health problems will also have a slower economic recovery, and in all the multilateral entities, I believe that Mexico will be calling for these differences and inequities in access to solutions against the pandemic to be tackled, as well as for international solidarity.
On fighting hunger, Mexico is a member of the executive boards of both IFAD and the World Food Programme. Taking into consideration the link between the fight against extreme poverty and food and nutritional security, as well as the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in both areas, what are the most important actions that Mexico has taken internally to minimize these impacts?
Thanks to the active and purposeful participation of Mexico, we are one of the few countries that are part of the decision-making bodies of the three United Nations Agencies based in Rome: FAO [Food and Agriculture Organization], IFAD [International Fund for Agricultural Development], and the World Food Programme.
Mexico has been a promoter, throughout the entire period of the pandemic, of ensuring the supply of safe and innocuous food, through compliance with good agricultural practices throughout the agro-food chain. It is very important that personal health care is not neglected, as an important part in each of these stages as these measures are very useful to contain the impact of the pandemic on food security, and to allow populations that are more vulnerable to continue to have access to food.
IFAD is currently in its replenishment cycle, which ends in September. Please call on the international community to continue supporting IFAD and small farmer support programs worldwide, and in particular in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Mexico calls on the international community to continue to provide broad support to the activities carried out by the International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD, through programs and projects whose primary objective is to offer the rural population the opportunity to improve their food and nutritional security, increase their income, strengthen their resilience, and also attack the root causes, which threaten the food security of the population living in rural areas and also of the communities they supply.
What are Mexico's expectations for the Food Systems Summit to take place in September 2021, and in what way does Mexico's national action plan hope to impact the achievement of SDG 2 and its links with SDG 1?
At the Food Systems Summit, Mexico will seek the establishment of a roadmap to support and promote the building of more sustainable and resilient food systems which are healthy and allow us to advance in reducing poverty, which is the first SDG, and also zero hunger, as the second goal of the 2030 Agenda.
We will also support initiatives that contribute to food security, as well as cooperative actions that take advantage of scientific and technical innovations that promote biodiversity in the agricultural sector, food safety, and promote healthy and accessible diets for all. We hope that these results will contribute to meeting the objectives of sufficiency and food security, as well as the guidelines established and contained in Mexico’s National Development Plan, which is part of the country's public policies and includes food self-sufficiency and rescuing rural areas.
Regarding gender, Mexico is the co-convener of the Generation Equality Forum, having successfully organized its first Session in March of this year, and leads the Action Coalition on Justice and Economic Rights. On this particular topic, we would like to focus on unpaid care work. The Government of Mexico and INMUJERES, in partnership with UN Women, have emphasized the importance of the care economy through commitments made to their national care system, including at the constitutional level and by clarifying the need to reevaluate the distribution of care work at all levels of society.
We are very pleased with the results of the Generation Equality Forum. It was a very important moment of mobilization of representatives from all sectors, who came together around a transformative agenda to accelerate efforts to achieve gender equality. Mexico leads the economic justice coalition and decided to put this issue of "care" at the center of the agenda, convinced, even before the pandemic, of the importance of addressing it as a substantial issue for the empowerment of women.
In addition, we are very committed to the National Care System. We have launched a global alliance initiative for care work, which is a bold effort to address the burden of care that hampers economic opportunities for women. This has increased with the pandemic and it is very urgent to address this matter.
At the Global Citizen Festival in New York in September 2019, Mexico announced the launch of its feminist foreign policy plan. Almost two years after that announcement, what do you consider are the main achievements and pending challenges in this area?
During the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly in 2019, Mexico adopted a feminist foreign policy, announced by Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, and which was publicly launched at the beginning of 2020. At the music festival organized by Global Citizen on that occasion in Central Park, we made the announcement following Chancellor Ebrard's announcement at the General Assembly, and we also announced Mexico's willingness to organize the Generation Equality Forum.
Officially, the feminist foreign policy was presented at the meeting of [Mexican] Consuls and Ambassadors in January 2020 and what we want with this ... is to contribute to equity and gender equality in all the work of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, both internally and externally in the positions presented by Mexico.
In addition, Mexico has deployed a foreign policy with a feminist agenda at its center. We have supported the “Santiago commitments” and also during the pandemic we have continued working within the framework of this foreign policy to defend gender equity in access to health.
Also Mexico, among other actions, has promoted the ratification of Convention 189 on domestic workers in July 2020. This will benefit Mexico’s more than 2.4 million people, mostly women, who work in this area.
In the United Nations Human Rights Council, also, for the 10th consecutive year, we have promoted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women [CEDAW] in the past year. This issue was very important, in order to recognize the multiple and intersectional forms of discrimination faced by women and girls and it is important to recognize the disproportionate effects that the COVID-19 pandemic has on the lives of women and girls.
Also, as part of our collaboration with the CEDAW committee, we presented our mid-term report, following up on the recommendation we received as a state by this human rights treaty body, and we promoted the candidacy of Dr. Patricia Bonifas as an independent expert of said committee.
Among the challenges since the adoption of the feminist foreign policy of Mexico, we can find two levels of classification: Internally at the institutional level, the reform of the Mexican Foreign Service Law is already in the Senate, which seeks to incorporate the principles of equality and non-discrimination in a transversal way in the legislation, and also to have a diplomatic corps that is governed by the principles of equity, to have gender equity in the number of ambassadorial appointments and thus in all foreign service.
Externally, we are promoting a feminist agenda that some states still do not fully adopt, and there are even strong questions about the concepts of gender equity and equality in the human rights of women and girls, but our positions are always progressive and we have an important influence in the negotiations to reach consensus in favor of women in multilateral forums.
In this sense, we invite other states to listen to the voices of women and girls. We women know well what it takes to achieve substantive equality, [and] we know the needs that are imposed on us by discrimination. As we know, this inequality of women extends throughout the world, and it is important that all states embrace the cause of women in our work.
Actualización. Al 20 de junio México ha recibido #50Millones 288 mil 115 dosis de vacunas contra #Covid19.— Martha Delgado (@marthadelgado) June 21, 2021
Hace unos minutos arribaron a nuestro país 1 millón 221 mil 300 dosis de @AstraZeneca. pic.twitter.com/o2b2QJf0Z8
What expectations does Mexico have for the G20 Summit to take place in October 2021 on the issue of financing to face the pandemic and reactivate the global economy?
Mexico considers that the G20 has a very important role in assessing and quantifying the impact of the pandemic. Also, it has a role in finding progress and sharing experiences, and establishing support mechanisms for both low- and middle-income countries. We must consider that 75% of the population and 62% of people living in poverty in the world live in middle-income countries, so it is important that we pay particular attention to this group of countries.
According to the World Bank, up to 120 million people will fall into extreme poverty in 2020 and most of the newly generated poor are found in middle-income countries, and they are now a total 94 million individuals. For this reason, Mexico considers it crucial that new mechanisms be generated in which the new Special Drawing Rights of the International Monetary Fund are reallocated for the benefit of middle-income countries and that other types of mechanisms and instruments are analyzed, without excluding bilateral mechanisms, in order to relocate these Special Drawing Rights, including the possibility of creating a specific fund within the international financial institutions that can gradually favor this fight against poverty.
What is your message for Global Citizens?
We are in a changing world, where inequalities permeate and where people's well-being is compromised. The pandemic has unfortunately shown us that we continue to face many challenges in terms of inequality to fight extreme poverty, to reduce and eliminate violence against women and girls in all the places where we find ourselves. In all places where there are women, greater attention must be paid to their condition and safety.
We call for all Global Citizens to raise awareness about the situation in our world, starting with those situations closest to home and the most significant problems of our societies. Governments cannot function alone. We need the support and collaboration of all stakeholders to achieve a more sustainable world where no one is left behind.
Editor’s note: This interview has been translated from Spanish and has been lightly edited for clarity.